The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is looking into reports that Tesla vehicles accelerate on their own. Tesla thinks that’s bullshit, and they have the data — and the statement — to back it up.
NHTSA is investigating 127 claims of “sudden unintentional acceleration” in Teslas. This is a big deal — when it happened to Toyota, it was apparently caused by poorly designed floor mats, and they recalled a bunch of vehicles and settled for over $1.2 billion.
But Tesla is having none of it. Here’s their statement on the claims:
There is no “unintended acceleration” in Tesla vehicles
This petition [to NHTSA] is completely false and was brought by a Tesla short-seller. We investigate every single incident where the driver alleges to us that their vehicle accelerated contrary to their input, and in every case where we had the vehicle’s data, we confirmed that the car operated as designed. In other words, the car accelerates if, and only if, the driver told it to do so, and it slows or stops when the driver applies the brake.
While accidents caused by a mistaken press of the accelerator pedal have been alleged for nearly every make/model of vehicle on the road, the accelerator pedals in Model S, X and 3 vehicles have two independent position sensors, and if there is any error, the system defaults to cut off motor torque. Likewise, applying the brake pedal simultaneously with the accelerator pedal will override the accelerator pedal input and cut off motor torque, and regardless of the torque, sustained braking will stop the car. Unique to Tesla, we also use the Autopilot sensor suite to help distinguish potential pedal misapplications and cut torque to mitigate or prevent accidents when we’re confident the driver’s input was unintentional. Each system is independent and records data, so we can examine exactly what happened.
We are transparent with NHTSA, and routinely review customer complaints of unintended acceleration with them. Over the past several years, we discussed with NHTSA the majority of the complaints alleged in the petition. In every case we reviewed with them, the data proved the vehicle functioned properly.
That’s pretty clear.
I’ve never seen an automaker (or any other company) behave so defiantly toward a regulator. The basic claim is “We have the data, and we can prove nothing is happening that shouldn’t.”
If you’re right, be bold
Notice the confident use of “we” (10 instances in 263 words). There is no passive voice, and there are no weasel words. It just says “There’s no chance we’re responsible.
This is probably more confident than it ought to be. It’s possible that something about the configuration of the pedals is causing people to step on the accelerator by mistake. But for now, Tesla is completely defiant.
Keep this in mind: When you are sure you are right, expressing yourself clearly, positively, and directly — and citing evidence and data — is the best choice. There is no need to denigrate others, equivocate, or hide behind passives. Even if you are wrong, the penalty for being bold and wrong is the same as the penalty for being timid and wrong. So be bold.